A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Proponents of the "Keep Home Care Safe" proposal are trying to sell it to voters by claiming it would create a program that's been in existence for more than 30 years.

In reality, the measure would lock the forced unionization of home health care workers in the State Constitution if Michigan voters approve it on Nov. 6. 

Of course the real reason doesn't sell as well with voters so the Service Employees International Union and its supporters are pushing the idea of safety instead. Only the protections they're talking about have existed in a federal program since 1981.

To get a sense of how long the federal program has been in existence consider that 1981 was the year Ronald Reagan was sworn in for his first term as president and 52 Americans were released from the U.S. Embassy in Iran where they'd been held hostage for 444 days.

Disco, known as "music to dance to while looking in the mirror," was officially declared dead; the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was a big hit at the box office; Muddy Waters was the coach of the Michigan State football team; and the University of Michigan football team went 9-3, including a win in Bluebonnet Bowl.

That same year, the Home Help Program was started. Under that program, the elderly and others with disabilities have the option of being cared for at home instead of being sent to nursing homes. For 31 years, the Home Help Program has provided Medicaid money to subsidize this type of home care.

Yet, the union backed ballot proposal supporters keep saying the constitution should be changed to give people this option that already exists.

Under the banner, "Give Seniors and Persons with Disabilities a Choice ... and a Voice" is the following statement from one of the campaign's websites:

"Senior and disability rights groups across Michigan are working to put a proposal on the November ballot that would give all Michiganders — including seniors and persons with disabilities — the choice to direct their own care in their own homes, instead of forcing them into expensive nursing homes or institutions."

The "Keep Home Care Safe" proposal doesn't just use deception, it is based on deception, said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

"This is another union-backed ballot proposal made to look like it would be helping taxpayers, when in reality it just strengthens union bosses in this state," Adler said

In 1997, after the Home Help Program had been around for 16 years, the responsibility for operating it in Michigan was divided between the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health. In the years before 1997 it had been in the hands of DHS alone.

In 2005, the SEIU targeted the Home Help Program Medicaid checks as a potential money source when it began an effort to quietly unionize workers in Michigan. The union has since taken more than $31 million from the disabled and elderly as a result of the forced unionization.

The "Keep Home Care Safe" campaign also is attempting to stake claim to the idea that the proposal would establish a registry to do background checks of so-called home health care workers. What the proposal backers don't want voters to know is that a registry was created along with the unionization back in 2005.

This registry was remarkable for the extent to which it under-performed. In six years, the registry managed to garner only 933 names despite there being more than 44,000 who were unionized in the scheme.

One of the most likely reasons for the poor use of the registry is that roughly 75 percent of Home Help Program participants are relatives or friends taking care of loved ones.

In an effort to end the forced unionization, the legislature in 2011 defunded the dummy employer that ran the registry. However, the SEIU gave the dummy employer money to keep it going. This year, legislation was passed and signed into law to outlaw the forced unionization. That's why the SEIU is trying to lock it into the constitution.

"It is unfortunate that family members caring for their loved ones continue to have union dues deducted from their Medicaid payments," said Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1018, which would eventually end the forced unionization if the "Keep Home Care Safe" proposal is defeated. "Throughout our discussions on the issue of  Home Help worker unionization in the Michigan Legislature, it became quite clear that these individuals are not public employees of the state.

"The state even produced informational brochures stating that these workers are employed by the individual they are providing care to (a private citizen) and not the state," Sen. Hildenbrand said. "This unionization was a crafty arrangement to build union coffers and take limited money from individuals who are providing home care services. I am confident the people of the state of Michigan will see through this and vote 'no' on this proposal."

Dohn Hoyle, treasurer and co-chairman of the "Keep Home Care Safe" ballot measure has not returned requests for comment.

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Coverage of the Unionization of Home-Based Caregivers

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